On the way north we first visited the church of Samtavisi and then reached the Military road, leading from Tibilisi north to the Russian border. We came past the castle of Ananuri and the skiing resort of Gudauri, with the Georgian-Russian friendship monument, before we crossed the Jvari pass with 2,379 metres. We ended south of Stepanzminda, already on the northern side of the Great Caucasus mountains.
The border to Russia caused a queue of trucks on the hard shoulder already more than 100 km from the border. We wondered how long it would take them to get into Russia. We saw lorries from Turkey, Armenia, Russia, Georgia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
The Georgian Military Road (ca. 212 kilometres long) runs between Tbilisi (Georgia) and Vladikavkaz (Russia) and follows the traditional route used by invaders and traders throughout the ages. The Darial Gorge marks the border between Russia and Georgia and at the Jvari Pass, it reaches its maximum altitude of 2,379 meters. There is a tunnel in construction, again built by a Chinese company. For sure it will be a relieve especially to the truck drivers, who still have to take their heavy vehicles up und down this pass.
Ananuri was a castle and seat of the Eristavis (Dukes) of Aragvi, a feudal dynasty which ruled the area from the 13th century. The castle was the scene of numerous battles. The Mother of God church was built in 1689 for the son of Duke Bardzim. Today most of the town and part of the castle are submerged in the reservoir.
We actually drove up and down the road a couple of times. We somehow had passed the last petrol station and were running low on diesel. In the end we decided to turn around and drove back to fill up before we tackled the mountains.
When we finally got closer to the peaks of the Caucasus, the clouds opened up and we could enjoy the great panorama, the Military Road has to offer.
In the evening we reached the Truso valley south of Stepanzminda, where we want to go on a hike tomorrow – more on our next post!